In Design

E-Design. A Fresh, Friendly, and Grown-Up Space in New York City.


Some friends of mine in New York with very busy schedules were at a loss on how to pull together their first real home in the city. Beyond putting a fresh coat of white paint on the walls and buying a few essential pieces of furniture they really didn’t have any idea on what to do next. They reached out to me to put together an easy design concept that they could implement themselves.

Heads up on this post: there aren’t any After photos because this couple ended up jumping on an opportunity in California and won’t be implementing the design for some time. But this is a great small apartment design nonetheless.

Essentially they told me they had a 7′-6″x9′-6″ Shag Rug, a Room and Board 48″ Dining Table, a West Elm Jackson Sectional, and 4 CB2 dining chairs. They wanted to see a furniture plan and concept for their main living areas so they could determine what else they needed to buy to finish and decorate. They also said, “We need furniture for the awkward entry way, whether a bench or shelving or a console table or a bar/credenza/sideboard of sorts.”

So they gave me a floor plan and a few pictures (I had stayed with them for a few nights in April so I was familiar with the layout), and I got to work.


The first step was to put together an Inspiration Board to get a feel for what style felt right for them. They had told me they liked sleek, young, and modern with blue accents. And that they also loved everything at CB2. So I put together this inspiration board to communicate the general style direction so we had somewhere to start from.
decorating with blue teal inspiration board

Here’s what I told them when I sent them these images:

The words that came to mind for your place are:

Minimal, Sleek, Modern, Neutral, Masculine, Youthful, Textured, Contrast, Sophisticated, Comfortable

The color palette I envision for you is mostly neutral: white and soft gray with strong black/white contrast paired with caramel colors – leather, wood, brass metallics – as well as subdued blues.

I love the idea of keeping the light color on the walls, but perhaps considering an accent wall in a deep blue to break up the space.

They responded with some feedback. They liked the board for the most part except for the leather, and they weren’t sure about the brass accents. They also wanted a brighter blue. They sent me a Pinterest board (always helpful) and I tweaked the board.

decorating with the color blue teal inspiration board

They liked it! You can see how a few images changed the look a bit – going from moody sophistication to more playful and youthful. Overall, this second board is a “happier” look.

So I spent a few weeks putting together the design, and here’s what I sent them, starting with the floor plan.

01_baldini_furniture-plan_page_1Here is what I told them when I sent them the design package so they could understand the design considerations.

  1. Making the space feel larger as you pass through each space. Since your space is long and narrow, it’s important to make it feel as large as possible with defined living areas. To do this, I chose a few wall treatments that will make your space feel as though it is getting larger and larger as you walk through it towards the living area. I recommend painting an accent wall right at the entry Benjamin Moore Westcott Navy. As you pass through the entry, I propose making the next space the dining area. There is enough space to make this a fantastic dining room, and it will be something for your eye to look at as you enter the apartment, instead of a long room. I really like the idea of treating the walls with a wallpaper in just this dining space. Then, as you pass into the living area, the walls can remain the current wall color, and you will feel like you’ve just entered a large, open, airy space.
  2. Defining each space. This design gives you clearly defined areas: An entry, a dining room, a reading nook, a kitchen, and a living room. The entry is defined with the wall color, a rug, and wall hooks. The dining room is defined by a simple wallpaper, a focal wall with small banquette seating and hide rug to ground the furniture, and a pendant light over the table, as well as a wall with a bar cart. The reading nook is a small corner with a chair, table, floor lamp, and artwork. The living room features a media center which helps to separate the space as well as offer lots of storage and serve as a focal point.
  3. Maximizing square footage with furniture layout. My hope is that you can switch the sofa to the opposite wall. I think there is just enough space to do this. This gives you the opportunity to have a better seating group, and lets you see through to the window from all spaces, without it being blocked by the TV. The dining area features a banquette seating piece so that you can have additional seats for guests without introducing more clunky chairs. With this, you only have 2 freestanding chairs which improves traffic flow.
  4. Selections. I chose items from CB2 and West Elm mostly as you indicated these were stores you like. I recommend round bar stools as they will offer more flexibility with positioning. I think a custom pair of shutters on the windows would be the best solution for a window treatment. They offer great privacy, look great, and you can easily control the light. I love the idea of making this a dark charcoal color which will help draw the eye to this window and make your one window really pop – something that is very important as you don’t have much natural light. Instead of an ottoman or coffee table, I think a couple of small round tables will offer you flexibility as they could also double as seating stools. A console table under the window that is open below offers a spot where you can slide a pouf/ottoman or two for even more seating. I really like the idea of a tile mosaic as a backsplash in the kitchen, and I think it’s only necessary to treat the wall with the bar counter. I also like the idea of a couple of wall sconces on the dining room wall – this will give you the ability to have attractive, more flexible, lighting. They’re plug-in, as well as the dining pendant, so you don’t have to worry about getting an electrician.

moroccan rug living room fabrics and finishes board

Here is the finish board I put together for the living area, using the existing shag rug and sectional as a starting point for the other selections.
west elm crosby sofa living room ideas

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dining room design ideas

They had their dining table in the corner that I proposed turning into a reading nook, but I recommended turning that “awkward entry area/foyer” into the dining area. This meant we basically gained another room. That’s HUGE for a small NYC apartment.

dining room design ideas

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I designed a banquette area for the dining wall, and used their existing dining table. This helped define this area better and maximized the seating. It also created a great focal wall.

The other two smaller areas were the Entry and the new Reading Nook.

reading nook design ideasReading Nook design ideas with blue

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To help them see what this would look like, I put the design in Google SketchUp. It’s so helpful to see the concept in 3D.05_baldini_scenes_page_105_baldini_scenes_page_305_baldini_scenes_page_2

With the right furniture layout, materials, furnishings and accessories, this little 1-bedroom apartment can be transformed into a sophisticated, efficient, and beautiful space.

For more E-Designs, check out these posts:

E-Design. A New York Apartment in Need of a Plan.

Adding Character to a New Construction Home.

My Brother’s First Apartment.

What do you think? I love how so much can be accomplished in such a small space.

E-Design is great for those who appreciate great design on a budget. I’m scheduling new projects for early 2017. Let me be apart of your new space!

If you are interested in an E-Design, please inquire here.

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